Posts Tagged ‘language delay’

Letting a baby play on an iPad might lead to speech delays, study says

Friday, May 5th, 2017

(CNN) Anyone raising a child today has likely fretted about screen time and wondered about the impact of devices on our kids. Does the technology affect their brains? Does it limit their social development? Could it harm them emotionally? Could it delay when they start talking?

I had never thought about that last question until a new study, released Thursday and being presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, revealed some striking findings.

The study found that the more time children between the ages of six months and two years spent using handheld screens such as smartphones, tablets and electronic games, the more likely they were to experience speech delays.

“I believe it’s the first study to examine mobile media device and communication delay in children,” said Dr. Catherine Birken, the study’s senior investigator and a pediatrician and scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario. “It’s the first time that we’ve sort of shone a light on this potential issue, but I think the results need to be tempered (because) it’s really a first look.”

In the study, which involved nearly 900 children, parents reported the amount of time their children spent using screens in minutes per day at age 18 months. Researchers then used an infant toddler checklist, a validated screening tool, to assess the children’s language development also at 18 months. They looked at a range of things, including whether the child uses sounds or words to get attention or help and puts words together, and how many words the child uses.

Twenty percent of the children spent an average of 28 minutes a day using screens, the study found. Every 30-minute increase in daily screen time was linked to a 49% increased risk of what the researchers call expressive speech delay, which is using sounds and words. The study did not find any link between use of a handheld device and other areas of communication, such as gestures, body language and, social interaction.

‘We need more definitive research’

Birken, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, stressed that while her study shows there appears to be a relationship between handheld device use and communication delays in young children, much more research is needed to determine if the device use is actually causing the speech delay.

Further research also needs to look into what content the young children are reviewing and whether they are using devices with a parent and/or caregiver present, she said.

“I think in order to actually develop the evidence to inform parents and clinicians about what to recommend, we need more definitive research,” Birken said. “You need trials. You need good evidence, at least longitudinal studies, but this, at least, this finding is identifying an association and it does support the current recommendation” from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

That group recommends no screens at all, other than video-chatting with family, for children younger than 18 months. The noise and activity of a screen can be distracting for a small child and can cause a disconnect between them and their parents, pediatricians have said.

For kids between the ages of 18 to 24 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics moved away last year from recommending a total screen ban for this age group. Instead, it recommends parents choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what exactly they are seeing.

Nearly 40% of children under age 2 have used a mobile device, an increase from just 10% in 2011, according to a 2013 study by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization which is focused on helping children, parents and educators navigate the world of media and technology. Those numbers are likely to be even higher today as smartphones have only grown in popularity.

“This is an important study in highlighting some of the potential risks associated with media use, and specifically handheld mobile devices,” said Michael Robb, research director for Common Sense Media. “What’s driving the effect is very important. The negative effects may be due to screen time replacing parent-child interaction (playing, reading, talking, singing, etc.) which are critical for healthy development,” said Robb via email.

Screens are ‘everywhere’

Michelle MacRoy-Higgins and Carlyn Kolker are co-authors of the just released “Time to Talk: What You Need to Know About Your Child’s Speech and Language Development,” which explores how speech develops in babies and young children.

MacRoy-Higgins, who has worked with hundreds of infants, toddlers and young children as a speech-language therapist, said she was not at all surprised by the findings.

“We do know that young kids learn language best through interaction and engagement with other people, and we also know that children who hear less language in their homes have lower vocabularies.”

It may be the case that the more young children are engaged in screen time, then the less time they have to engage with caretakers, parents and siblings, said MacRoy-Higgins, who is also an associate professor in the department of speech-language pathology and audiology at Hunter College.

The first two years are incredibly important for children and their early foundation of language is important for academic success, she said. “Delays can be associated with difficulties learning to read and to write in elementary school so these early years, these first two years, the language influence that kids get is really very, very important and we want our kids to stay on track with their language development, because if they’re not, they’re really at risk for having some difficulties.”

When my first daughter was born in 2006, there was no such thing as an iPhone or an iPad. But today, handheld devices are ubiquitous, which is part of the reason why there is more attention and perhaps concern about the impact they might have on kids, especially babies.

“They are everywhere and we can’t ignore that fact,” said Kolker, a former Bloomberg News and Reuters reporter, who started working on “Time to Talk” with MacRoy-Higgins almost five years ago. “We’re not all going to throw our phones away.”

Devices are a reality today, but parents need to be informed, she said.

“I think what this study shows is how much we really need to delve into what affects they’re having on children, and how a parent, while we may have them and while they may be there, we need to know how exactly we can regulate them,” Kolker said.

The best advice for parents, the co-authors say, is to interact with your child. The best way to teach them language is by interacting with them, talking with them, playing with them, using different vocabulary, pointing things out to them and telling them stories.

“They’re free and they’re easy to do,” said MacRoy-Higgins, a mother of two who said she wanted to write a book because she is constantly approached by fellow parents with questions about their children’s language development. “Sometimes parents want to know ‘What type of toy should I buy?’ … ‘What types of things can I buy to help my child learn?’ and you don’t have to spend a lot of money, just time and engagement is really the easiest thing that you can do.”

But most parents today, even those who are aware of the research, may find it useful to let their baby be preoccupied by a handheld device from time to time and that’s OK, said Kolker, who is also a mom of two.

“Every parent is going to need a device at some moment, a screen or a device, a tablet with their child at some point,” Kolker said. “It’s just going to happen and you can do that without some level of guilt, but I think you need to know that those are effectively tools to help yourself perhaps in a down moment but they aren’t tools that are really going to help your child.”

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Speech Therapy for Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Children

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Our speech therapy staff travels to your home throughout Brooklyn, including Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Fort Green, Clinton Hill, Navy Yard, Vinegar Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Flatbush, Prospect Heights, Park Slope and more!  Our traveling speech language therapists provide evaluation and treatment services to infants through adults, in the convenience of your New York City home or your child’s school. We collaborate with a team of professionals specializing in neuropsychology, psychology, psychotherapy, occupational therapy, nutrition and hearing. We pride ourselves on developing strong relationships with the families we service. – See more at:

Read more about our staff.

Contact: craig@brooklynletters and/or 347-394-3485

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Brooklyn, Manhattan, & Queens Child Speech Therapy (Private Services in your Home)

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

If you are interested in a licensed speech language therapist (pathologist) coming to your home, please contact us, or call us at 347-394-3485.

We work with all ages (babies-adolescents) and all types of speech and language delays and concerns. We service many neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. We travel to the following neighborhoods:

Manhattan– Upper East Side, Midtown East, Murray Hill, Gramercy, Union Square, East Village, Soho, Upper West Side, Midtown, Chelsea, West Village, Chinatown, Lower East Side.

Brooklyn– Kensington, Midwood, Windsor Terrace, Park Slope, Ditmas Park, Boro Park, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, Ditmas Park, Kensington, Prospect Park South, Midwood, Canarsie, Flatbush, Crown Heights, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Prospect Heights, Bay Ridge, and Dyker Heights.

Queens-– Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria

We look forward to working with you!

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Park Slope Early Childhood Speech Delay Lecture

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Join South Slope resident Dr. Michelle MacRoy-Higgins, Assistant Professor in the Communication Sciences program at Hunter College (CUNY) and a speech therapist with over 15 years of experience, for a parent-friendly discussion on speech and language development and delays in toddlers and preschoolers. Dr. MacRoy-Higgins will debunk common myths about speech and language delays, inform you on the current best practices for speech and language therapy, and provide you with practical and effective strategies to incorporate at home to help your child’s communication development; question and answer will follow.

When: Wed. February 29th, 6:45pm to 8:15pm.

Where: 435 15th St. #1 between 8th Ave and Prospect Park West in Park Slope, Brooklyn. One block from the F and G subway- 15th St. stop. *Please note the Brooklyn bound F subway does not stop at 15th St. Please exit at the 7th Ave stop (when exiting the subway station, walk up the stairs to 8th Ave).

Cost: $15 per person. No refund, unless event is canceled. Spots limited to 12 people.

Email Craig at to RSVP.

Once confirmed, please mail a check for $15, written out to Craig Selinger, and mail it to:

Craig Selinger
435 15th St. #1,
Brooklyn, NY 11215

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What is an Autism Spectrum Disorder? By Carolyn Kessler, Ph.D., Licensed Child Psychologist

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

In recent years, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have gained a great deal of attention for the rising prevalence of the diagnosis. This has created a greater level of awareness in our community, but also has lead to some misunderstandings about what ASD is. ASD is a developmental disability that affects three areas of functioning; these are language/communication, social functioning, and behavior. In the early years, an individual with ASD presents difficulties either in social communication, imaginative play, or social interaction. Over time, the characteristics described below also become evident.

Language/Communication Characteristics:

A person with ASD typically has an early history of language delay. Some children even have a regression in language skills, meaning that they start to develop language, but then stop speaking. This regression can be gradual or sudden. The good news, however, is that most people with autism spectrum disorders develop language, particularly with the help of intervention.

Individuals with ASDs also tend to use language in an idiosyncratic manner. These idiosyncrasies include using language in a repetitive manner (echolalia), speaking with an unusual tone of voice, using formal language, and speaking in an invented language/using invented words. Some children speak much like an adult would. Conversation is also difficult for people with ASD. Someone with ASD may talk a lot, but it is hard for them to engage in a reciprocal conversation, meaning that they might talk on and on about one topic or try to bring conversations about varying topics back to a topic of particular interest. Others might not respond at all to the social use of language. In children with ASD, there is also sometimes a difficulty with pretend, imaginary play. This is sometimes an area of play that children with ASD do not enjoy.

Social Characteristics:

Individuals with ASD vary in terms of their interest in engaging socially with others. Some people with ASD really want to have friends and interact with others, while some people with ASD prefer to spend time alone, not interacting with others. In both groups, peer relationships are difficult. Those who want to engage with friends often have difficulty with the reciprocal nature of social relationships, so skills such as turn-taking, sharing, and allowing for everyone to influence the progression of play can be a struggle.

Another often problematic area of social development for individuals with ASD is the use of nonverbal behaviors to regulate social interactions. This means that a person with ASD may have trouble using eye contact, so they may avoid making eye contact, or they may make too much eye contact such that it appears they are staring. Facial expression and gesture also may be implicated here, so that the person with ASD may have a limited range of facial expressions (e.g. always smiling) or do not use or inconsistently use gestures such as waving goodbye and pointing.

Individuals with ASD may also have trouble with a concept known as “socioemotional reciprocity.” This means that social skills such as comforting others who are hurt or sad, responding appropriately when someone approaches them, and initiating social contact in an appropriate manner may be difficult for them.

Finally, individuals with ASD have trouble in many cases with “shared enjoyment.” Shared enjoyment refers to behaviors such as smiling, making eye contact, and saying enthusiastic comments, such as, “This is great!” when happy and excited about something.

Interests and Behaviors:

People with ASD often have strong interests that captivate them. These interests can pervade play, conversation, leisure time, and academics, and in many cases, the individual is incredibly knowledgeable about their topic of interest. A person may have one interest that they maintain for years and years, or they may have an intense interest for a month or two, and then shift to a new intense interest.

Individuals with autism also are often interested in the parts of objects. For example, instead of playing with matchbox cars by setting up a racing scenario, they may prefer to turn the car over and watch the wheels spin. Individuals with ASD also may engage in repetitive motor behaviors, such as hand flapping or finger flicking. These mannerisms may be brief and subtle, or they may be very obvious.

Finally, people with ASD often adhere to routinized behavior. For instance, they may insist on taking the same route to school everyday, or keeping the same strict schedule day after day. Many parents don’t recognize these routines until an unexpected disruption occurs and their child becomes very upset.

ASDs can be diagnosed at a range of ages, from early childhood through adulthood. No matter what age, diagnosis can be a valuable way to secure the supports and services an individual might need to meet their potential.

Carolyn Kessler, Ph.D., is a child psychologist with more than 10 years of experience working with children, adolescents, and their families on issues related to behavior management and parenting, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, developmental disabilities, and ADHD. Family training is a key component of her therapy. Dr. Kessler specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. She is a Codirector of Psychology Services at the New York University Child Study Center’s Institute for Pediatric Neuroscience and is in private practice in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where she provides assessment, treatment, and consultation to families and schools. In addition to standardized testing of IQ, achievement, memory, and behavior, her assessment skills include the use of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), an instrument on which Dr. Kessler trains other professionals, as well as the Autism Diagnostic Interview- Revised (ADI-R).

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